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Campaign to end meningococcal epidemic extended

10 April 2006

Campaign to end meningococcal epidemic extended

Minister of Health Pete Hodgson with 4 month old Shaia Rameka, recipient of the three millionth dose of MeNZB, and her mother Rebecca Pene
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The hugely successful Meningococcal B immunisation campaign will continue past 30 June as a result of $22 million in Budget 2006, Health Minister Pete Hodgson announced today.

Speaking at a celebration to mark the delivery of the 3 millionth vaccine dose, Pete Hodgson said that that new data released today confirms that the end of the Meningococcal B epidemic is in sight.

"The Meningococcal B immunisation campaign has been one of the boldest steps in the Labour-led government's work for New Zealand families," Pete Hodgson said. "We set out to end an epidemic by undertaking the largest mass-immunisation programme in New Zealand's history.

"We've had a few naysayers along the way, but thanks to the incredible effort of health professionals, schools and families across the country, we are now seeing dramatic declines in Meningococcal B cases."

In 2003, the year prior to the start of campaign, there were 189 cases of epidemic strain meningococcal disease in under 20 year olds. This dropped to 82 cases last year – a 57 per cent reduction.

"The rapid decline in meningococcal cases has given us the confidence to push ahead with an extension of the campaign to ensure all New Zealand children get the protection they need.

"The three years of new operational funding will enable continued vaccination for all newborns and vaccination of under-fives through 2009 in addition to an extra six months of vaccination for 5-19 year olds through 31 December 2006.

"Reaching the 3 millionth dose is an important milestone for the campaign. More than 85 percent of the eligible age group has now had dose one and the campaign is on target to reach more than 80 per cent with three doses by 30 June 2006.

"95 per cent of Pacific Island and 81 per cent of Maori school children have completed all three doses. I'm also very pleased to report that there seems to be no difference in uptake based on socioeconomic circumstances – that's a huge achievement.

"We still have more work to do. It's very important that all children complete their vaccination courses as quickly as possible."

Contact: Jason Knauf, Press Secretary, (04) 471 9918 or (021) 71 9881, email: Jason.Knauf@parliament.govt.nz, http://www.beehive.govt.nz/hodgson

What will the $22 million in operational funding over three years purchase?

The $22.1m funding package allows for the purchase, storage, delivery and operational costs to administer the MeNZB vaccine over 3 years through to mid 2009.

A. Newborns should continue to be routinely offered MeNZB vaccine from 1 July 2006 until there is clinical or epidemiological evidence that the vaccine is no longer required.
B. Those aged 5-19 years who have had their 1st dose of MeNZB vaccine before 30 June 2006, should be encouraged to complete the course by 31 December 2006.
C. Those under 5 years should continue to be offered MeNZB vaccine opportunistically from 1 July 2006, until there is clinical or epidemiological evidence hat the vaccine is no longer required.
D. The Ministry of Health may offer the MeNZB vaccine to other groups as required.

What will be achieved by extending the Programme?

This will build on the successes of controlling the epidemic, by particularly ensuring that newborns and under 5 year olds, who are at highest risk of contracting meningococcal disease are protected with the MeNZB vaccine.

Why is the continuation needed?

There is a clear need to provide as much protection as possible for children under 1 year of age, as this is the group at highest risk of contracting invasive meningococcal disease.

There is an additional consideration that people who have started the MeNZB vaccine have the opportunity to complete all the doses to be fully protected. Therefore it is important to allow the extra time up to 31 December 2006 to enable those aged from 5 to 19 to complete their doses.

ENDS

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